Black tray recycling now possible with packaging breakthrough

Black plastic trays that can be detected in mixed waste streams and separated by reprocessing machinery may soon be a reality, thanks to a Danish packaging firm.

Færch Plast has developed a black CPET (crystalline polyethylene) material that can be picked out by near infrared (NIR) sensors in what it claims is a world first.

Faerch, a manufacturer of high performance plastic packaging for the food industry, engineered the material in conjunction with several stakeholders including WRAP, Nextek, Titech, Eurofins and UK supermarket retailers.

Until now, recycling of black CPET trays commonly used in food packaging has not been possible as they can’t be detected by the NIR sensors used by most recycling operators.

Færch’s senior manager Jesper Emil Jensen said it had been a complicated project because the current pigment used in these trays is both good at what it does and is also the cheapest form of black available on the market.

“After considerable testing and trials using different dyes and pigments we now have a recyclable solution that is cost effective, aesthetically pleasing and functional,” he said.

Earlier this year WRAP announced breakthrough trials that identified certain reprocessing methods capable of separating out black plastics and other complex polymers.

Over a million tonnes of plastics packaging still ends up going to landfill because of the difficulty of collecting and recycling films, challenges in detecting and sorting black plastics and the lack of high value markets for non-bottle plastics.

Maxine Perella

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